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tv   Book Discussion on Dear Reader  CSPAN  May 3, 2014 10:48am-12:02pm EDT

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thank you all for coming, this has been unbelievable. [applause] >> for more information, visit the author's website "mission at nuremberg".com. >> 25th street is actually not that unusual. someone streets have popped up in other cities and this includes larimer street in denver.
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but you had on the one hand the people's party, which was struggling to contain control of the city. on the other hand you had the railroad, which is the economic lifeblood of the city. which swelled the ranks of the liberal party and so the railroad was also leveling the playing field. so you had that ironing. and i think in that context the guilty pleasures that were along 25th street were going to be just a little bit more taboo than they might have been in other cities. and so with the hotels and restaurants here at the depot and the hotel three blocks east of here, the three blocks between them began to fill and slowly with boarding houses and rooming houses and saloons as well as well as bordellos and
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even some opium dens it just so happened that transcontinental passengers were interested in times that require different than those that the culture was accustomed to. >> this weekend, booktv in american history tv take a look at his tree and literary life of the ogden, utah. today c-span2 and he spent three. >> coming up next, the life and he knew the influence of the late north korean leader kim jong il. he spoke with cole styker at the housing works café in new york city. this is an hour and 15 minutes. >> thank you, everyone, for coming. we have a couple of great books
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here on sale. dear reader, which is a book that we are celebrating tonight. something that i finished earlier this week i found captivating and i'm so glad to see that you're all here. we will make sure that that will be illustrated in tonight's talk as well. we have our man of the hour. we got to know each other because he spent the entire night chatting up my mother who is visiting new york for the first time. and from what i understand, michael being soviet born, he basically wanted to learn more about what is or is went through growing up under soviet rule and decided to take a trip to north korea. and he bought every book of propaganda he could find, presumably all written by kim jong il, the former ruler of
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north korea. and he coalesced that into a pretty interesting book. and he pitched around and nobody understood it. so they decided to put it out himself. a very successful kick starter later, he self published and now you have the finished product. michael has cowritten -- his name appears on the cover, it means that he is a co-author of several books. he has written alongside matthews and for a community. and he he decided to turn his attention to someone who could ballistically be called the most mysterious man in the world up
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until his death a few years back. and so i have finished the book, like i said, about a week ago. so it's kind of eight comedy and tragedy. it starts off with the phrase that i remember the day that i was born perfectly. which i think sets the tone pretty well for the rest of the book. the book that makes you question if this guy is crazy. they see that self-deluded that he believes these things or is he just that cold and calculated and removed from humanity that it doesn't phase him for the fact that his country is failing and starving and dying. and so it starts off really funny with all of these stories about how he is performing these dracula things. and when he was born the sun shines down and he climbs a tree
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at age three and he surprises all that adults around him by his intelligence. he almost reminded me of a tiny chubby eric cartman running around encouraging his friends to criticize themselves. as well as telling an ingratiating himself with the right people. and over time he gains more power in being the son of kim jong il, the leader of the revolution. of course, eventually developing ultimate power and in it starts off kind of rosy because taking these changes and leading groups and building things. then it starts to kind of fall apart into a dark comedy. so, you know, you have this tremendous interest are things i'm going away to you envision. and it's not because it was a bad idea in the first place but because they are not doing this
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hard enough. some in the dark comedy overtime turns to tragedy and the be references to some pretty troubling things. like the little sparrows which is a word that they use for these little kids that spend their lives rooting around in garbage pits trying to find anything edible like our progress. and of course none of this has anything to do with poor leadership or the system of government. but it's all because there are these on the and enemies of the revolution are preventing them from achieving greatness. so it is an amazing book. you can only get it on amazon and i encourage you to do so. so i introduce to you now our
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author, michael malice. he's going to come up to the stage. >> okay. so i remember the day and that i was born perfectly. >> at something that was said about him. all of the funny lines start with me. [laughter] >> how i wrote this book, you know, i read all the western books in north korea on propaganda. and if you think that this is boring, you are wrong. it's 10,000 times worse than boring. because these stories are almost designed to kill the consciousness of the reader and eliminate critical thoughts. so i had to make this compelling and interesting so there are
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bits of weight. but he is not a very we figure it all. everything is said with utter sincerity and they are not fans whatsoever. certainly not with regard to the leaders who are regarded as a secular religion. >> how did you decide when to insert your own four-inch? >> when i work with any of my clients it's kind of like being a defense attorney. helping the person tell their story in a clearer way possible. creating a narrative that can be followed. i like to call it writing novels about people who happen to be real. so with this i try to stick to his own verbiage as much as possible. and i try to build a narrative that is fun and interesting to follow when i've gotten very positive responses. because a lot of this stuff, they are very much in 10 for
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external purposes. there are no books out there. this is a huge hole in the market. but if you want to sit down and read about north korea and understand how they are and why they are the way they are, there are not many books out there like that. there are some superb books that are just very dark and depressing. so i wanted to take a lighter perspective. at the same time you realize that this is the big humanitarian crisis of our time. >> speaking of lightheartedness, one of the most interesting things about north korea is someone who writes about the internet. north korea has become a sort of a joke to the west. as i understand, this is something that you want to attack head on to demonstrate that yes, there are some things that are humorous to us as
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outsiders. and this is a modern holocaust taking place rates we have to temper that as we recognize these orders. >> yes, i have a very dark sense of humor and i think that that is applied in america and the west north korea. because i don't think people understand just how bad it is. they understand that these people have wacky views and they understand that they don't understand things like everyone in the country every week have you stand up in front of their peers and be criticized and announce their colleagues. and if you don't say anything, it's really bad. and every minute of your day or your entire life is kind of regimented and you're told what to do. things like this, people don't
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realize just how dark this is. so i would hope that they would laugh from an informed place as opposed to laughing at a sideshow. >> it's almost kind of genius and when you punish it, it's not just you being punished. but it's three generations. and this is what it was invented. ..
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>> i found the same thing in the north korean propaganda, because i got books that were published in the '60s, '70s, and you'll find in an early story it will say kim il-sung went to india to meet with the prime minister, and the same story will be told in a later book, and it'll say kim il-sung went to a foreign country to meet with the head of state. so the facts just fall away, and you can see them consciously
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trying to put north korea into a fog. i've spoken to refugees about what it's like there, and they don't teach them geography. you know, i how ubiquitous in american and western schools is the world atlas and learning about europe and africa and south america and all of that. they're taught about china, japan, the u.s., and, you know, south korea and russia, and that's pretty much it. so it's absolutely pervasive, their attempts to control the minds of the populace. >> yeah. you mentioned earlier something along the lines of this is like a secularized divine right of kings scenario where everything as the regime claims becomes gospel, and reality almost bends toward those claims. like it's not what you're seeing. there's a story in the book about the finish i'm sorry if i pronounce it incorrectly, but the mountain -- >> mount pektu.
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they always have the sing-songy thing. >> this is the mountain that's the greatest pride of any north korean -- >> right, any korean. >> right. because they don't consider it to be north korea. >> right. it's the ancestral home of all the korean people. >> right. and there's a story where kim jung-il asked a question of his advisers about what's the highest mountain in the world, and someone says mount everest? and he says, no, you're wrong, it's mount pektu, and the reason why is because height shouldn't be measured by actual height, but rather like the spiritual greatness. >> yeah. because mount pektu is the birthplace of the revolution, therefore, it's the highest mountain in the world. and it is absurd, but you have to imagine what it's like growing up in a country where this is what you're taught as your reality. and even if -- like, i met a refugee, and there's another story in "dear reader" which i
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talk about which they repeat ad nauseam where kim jung-il's in kindergarten, and his teacher's teaching him one plus one equals two, and he says, no, that's not correct. if i that a drop of water and i add another drop of water, i have a big drop of water, and if all the korean people put their minds together, it'll be the greatest force in history. >> and the teacher qoaz, what? -- >> yeah, she's amazed. i met a refugee, and she in first grade was hearing this story, and she goes to herself this is the most ridiculous thing i ever heard. but she had the presence of mind to keep her mouth shut, because if you start challenging these things, they are coming for your family. this is going to get back to your mom and your dad. so you very, very early on have to have your blinders on, head down, mouth shut. and a lack of freedom, you know, what that means is you're just
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kind of in this bunker mindset where you just don't notice anything. and, you know, we have a lot of these videos on youtube where people go there, and the guide, you know, the guides tell them these absurd things, and they ask them, like, there's this vice video. they go to this banquet hall, no one's there, and he asks the waitresses, where is everyone? the waitress is, oh, they all just left. and it's like, oh, how crazy they are. but for them to say we don't have any customers is criticism of the restaurant and the regime, so you have to pretend everything's great, you know, just like any hostage. if you ask a hostage, you know, if you've got a hostage of videotape, you don't ask why do you have bruises on your face. they are not in a position to say because the guy who kidnapped me is beating me. so that's where a lot of these, you know, absurd claims are coming from. they have guns to their head, these people. >> yeah. these stories all throughout the book where kim jung-il will make
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some claim about a field that he would never have a possibility of having expertise in, like engineering or music -- >> oh, yes. >> there's a scene where he creates a new form of opera. >> that's true. >> right. >> yeah. >> and the head of opera or whatever says, you know, kim jung-il suggests why don't we do it this way, and then the head of opera kind of scratches his chin and goes, i never taught that. it just -- thought about that. it just might work. >> yeah. a lot of these stories only work if you are under the presumption that everyone in north korea's learning disabled. because here's how they work. it's not just like kim jung-il goes to a school and teaches the kids. he will meet with the best experts in north korea in that field, and he will say a completely obvious idea, and they'll all exclaim we never thought of this. and these are people working in this field ostensibly for decades. a good example is they built a
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tower which is the tallest obelisk in the world which even though it looks exactly like the washington monument is actually inspired by korean architecture supposedly, right? and the story they tell is all these architects are brainstorming how to make this building, and they go we want to make it the second tallest obelisk in the world, and kim jung-il goes we should make it the tallest, and they're like, oh, we never even considered that. [laughter] it's like, really? this is what's presented with a straight face. to mix him that great, everyone -- make him that great, everyone else has to be knocked down a peg. and that has pernicious consequences because the regime currently can claim with a straight face that the leader is working hard as much as he can, but it's the ruling regime that are not putting his brilliant ideas into practice, and that's why you're hungry. and, in fact, they will say that the reason kim jung-il has those sunglasses is because his eyes are bloodshot from todaying up all -- staying up all night
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working for the people. >> now, let's talk about the average north korean, and i think that a lot of people when kim jung-il died watched these videos, and they see just the crying and the relentless, you know, women just absolutely overcome with grief that this guy died. what are we really seeing if these videos? >> right. so kim jung-il kind of addressed how the people felt about him. his father was in charge of north korea for something like close to 50 years. and all the refugees still venerate and love kim il-sung, the great leader. and kim jung-il to the great leader is like nancy sinatra to frank sinatra. no one regards the second one as anything but a function. the first is head is and shoulders above the other one. so, you know, when he took over in '94, when kim kim jung-il tok over for his father, the people had to follow suit and pretend they revered him as much as they
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did his dad -- >> it was a completely unanimous vote, by the way, right? >> it was a unanimous vote, of course. he had the support of the people. but, and his campaign slogan was do not expect any change from me. that literally was what all the billboards said when he took over to. but there's a secret tape recording of him, and he said all this cheering is fake, they're not cheering from the bottom of their hearts. so he knew damn well that these people were not sincerely, you know, affectionate toward him. the morning when his father died was very, very sincere. if you have anyone running a country 50 years, you're going to be terrified if only what's going to happen now. again, being in a surveilled society when all your neighbors are reporting on everything you do every week, you damn well better make a show of how sad you are, you know, when the dear leader dies. >> yeah. so when you've talked to these refugees, is there some level of deprogramming that has to
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happen, or are they immediately as soon as they hit the shores of some other country, thank god i'm out of here, that was insane, you know, everything about that experience was brutality and horror? >> one of the worst things about north korea is people think that if the regime vanished, everything's going to be fine. it's not going to be fine for decades. these people have never seen a computer, they have to idea of history. you know, there's some funny anecdotes, you know, of like refugees in seoul going up to an atm and wondering how a person fits in there. we have a nation of 24 million people -- >> because they don't understand how computers work, and they just assume there's a little man -- >> right. there's got to be a guy in there. they're treated with great contempt in the south. they have to work on their accents. it's very low class and treated with contempt. so it's a very kind of there's no kind of happy ending to north
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korea. >> do the south koreans want reunification? do they want the regime to collapse? >> certainly no one wants the regime the collapse. but they -- reunification is less and less a priority for the south, and has another kind -- we are even seeing some people from the north repatriate to the north after escaping because in the south they are not able to hold down jobs, they're used to all their lives being told what to do, so they show up late to work, they have chips on their shoulder because they're treated as second class citizens. so it's really, i mean, this regime has been, you know, a vampire on these people for 70 years, and, you know, when the vampire is dead, you're still not going to be a healthy individual. so it's even darker than that. but, again, the book's very funny. [laughter] >> it is. it's true. um, kim jung-il's not a huge fan of the u.s.. >> oh, no, no. so one of the other orwellian things that they do is you can't
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refer to americans or japanese. it's always japanese devils or u.s. imperialists. so even the language is used as a technique to turn people against the enemies of the regime. and, in fact, there's this video i watched, there was a canadian reporter, he went to north korea, and he was walking down the street with his guides, and he got punched in the face by this elderly north korean man with good reason because, a, the elderly man assumed he was american, but the americans were the fault, were blamed for famine. so we can't have food because the americans have an embargo. so in the man, in his mind, you know, caused the starvation of his family. >> can you talk a little bit about -- the book is partitioned by these various interactions with the u.s. over the years. and each interaction with the u.s. goes something like this -- [laughter] >> it goes a little something like this. >> the u.s., you know, decides that they want to encroach in some way or monitor something,
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you know, nuclear activity, whatever it is, and the north koreans have to capitulate because they have zero power. and this is somehow spun through this devil speak into a north korean victory. so could you give an example of that? like, there's several in the book that i'm thinking of. >> well, it's really kind of great because they constantly are, you know, any regime you have to have the other. like, if we let down our guard, they're going to come in here and invade. like, what is true is in 1861 is the u.s. general sherman went to korea, the first, you know, western country to visit korea. and what is also true, the koreans killed everyone onboard and burned the ship down. so korea was known as the hermit kingdom, south korea remains
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largely xenophobic. and their idea is the americans are biding their time because every so often, you know, they want to come in, and they want to take us out. one of the great things i learned while writing this book is all the criticism of north korea is addressed at some point in their literature. they don't sweep it under the rug. so they, you know, go with after all these, you know, criticisms of them, and they have answers for all of them. they say why are we going to have reunification, how can you believe all these things? and from their perspective, which is not completely crazy, they went nuclear because president george bush went on tv and had basically a kill list of iraq, iran and north korea, and they're like, look, if you go after the countries that don't have nukes like iraq and the countries that do have nukes like, you know, like iran is increasingly happening, you negotiate with them. so of course you're going to give us an opportunity, you know, to acquire nuclear weapons, and this is a great triumph for us. >> has your opinion of american foreign policy changed at all since you started researching
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this? [laughter] >> i am not a particular fan of american foreign policy. that said, i don't think that there's any good answers with american foreign policy vis-a-vis north korea. a huge percentage of the country's underground. they 100% have nuclear weapons. they 100% would use them if they needed to, if they felt they needed to. so there's no -- but, again, a lot of times, you know, america will do things that are horrible, and after the fact we'll be called to task, and it's -- no one from any country likes to be invaded and have children killed by drones in the name of democracy. so it's, there's some -- i think americans, and i hate criticizing americans being an immigrant, but i think people often don't realize how things look from the other perspective. and somehow it's not unpatriotic to be like, you know, if i were an iraqi and i had killer robots killing my kid, i may not be waving the stars and stripes.
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>> so if you were obama -- >> oh, god, okay. [laughter] yeah? >> and let's say tensions escalate and kim jong un says, you know, we're going to continue to, you know, brutalize our citizens -- >> they're going to -- they boast about what they do, yeah. just say one more thing. in their double speak, they will say human rights, you know, because they're criticized for@w human rights boors abuses -- abuses, radioit? they say in our definition it means national sovereignty. so when you criticize us and what we do to our people, you are violating korean human rights. >> and isn't it also about how they perceive the people that they abuse to not be human? >> right. >> so anybody that is thrown into a prison is by definition a class -- >> class enemy. and as kim il-sung, the founder, said class enemies have to be exterminated to three generations. so according to the idea, the
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philosophy of north korea -- >> we talk a little bit about that? >> sure. according to the idea and, you know, most hard core communist philosophy, you only have a right to life as a member of society, a society that grants you this right, and once you betray your society, you're an unperson, and you can be vanished and destroyed. now, the idea, they very much tried to make, you know, korea unique in every single way. so the idea is their ruling philosophy, and it's an amalgam of, you know, mysticism, communism, fascism and kind of imperialism. and basically what it translates to is that which kim il-sung likes. it's often described, you know, as self-reliance, but it's also you have gymnastics and acrobatics ghrb. ghrb -- >> and, basically, it can change according to the whims of moment. >> right. and the definition changes. and, you know, we talk about him inventing the opera, reinventing the opera, it's like you should know what it is. the definition is that which i
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like. it's like, of course these people who are in the arts are crippled. and especially when you're in communist regimes and you work in the arts which is a very nuanced area, when you introduce nuance into works, that's a tight rope you have to walk. kim jung-il in this book, one of my favorite anecdotes, he really goes after the mona lisa. it's no longer regarded as a masterpiece, and i asked my mom why does kim jung-il hate the microphoneny lease saw, and she pauses, because it's ambiguous. art has to have a very clear message. if it's not propaganda, it's not art. so the pervasiveness of the idea and what they describe as the monolithic ideological system, they boast that everyone in this country thinks the same. and to them, it's a source of pride. and to us, you know, knowing what that really means, it's just a source of the most unimaginable horror. >> yeah. i was, you know, reading this book, personally i was struck by the similarities between this
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policy, in this attitude towards art and the attitude towards art that i grew up with in rural pennsylvania surrounded by what many people might consider to be fundamentalist christians, this idea that we have to create our own music because any music that isn't kind of furthering the cause is invalid. >> right. >> and any art that's ambiguous and doesn't have a specific, you know, reference to the redemptive story of christ is invalid. and i guess i just wanted to ask you about, like, did you also notice those parallels about, for instance, it might not be on the right, it might be left wing, this tendency to demonize opposing idea to the point where they're censored. >> yeah. they're not going to demonize ideas because they won't be introducing them to the populace. it's funny you said that, because i have a good friend who
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lives in the midwest, he's a born-again christian, and he said his favorite genre of music is christian. i don't like music that i agree with, that's like saying what kind of music do you like, love songs. that never made sense to me. but again, all he says explicitly, art has to have a message. and they're not left wing. this is one of the big misconceptions about north korea. they are very, they have all the check marks of traditional fascism except for, like, having business involvement with the economy. they are, they're the most homogeneous country on earth, they are the most xenophobic country on earth, they're violently, you know, anything foreign they're against, they're the fourth largest military which is amazing given a country of 24 million. they are very militaristic, very much for strength, very much for, you know, kind of crushing the weak. they have contempt for christianity because they will -- in their -- they will say that the christian message of turning the other cheek is a trick to get people to let their guard down and to bring down shame to a nation.
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in fact, there's a very famous story in north korea that these missionaries come, and they brand the children with crosses and acid on their face, you know, because they're just -- and they inject them with diseases. so the missionaries are really this kind of, like, sinister -- >> and homosexuals too. >> well, they don't talk about that. there's that one story where the -- in 1968 the american ship pueblo was captured by north korea, and according to the north koreans the americans were complaining not because of their poor treatment, but because as homosexuals that's how they expressed themselves. they wanted to have sex with each other, because that's how they expressed their individuality, and kim jung-il said this will not be happening on our soil. it's a very, very chaste, puritanical country, and they have a caste system, you know? they did something, the orwellianism, everything that's so evil has such a great name. they have something called the understanding people project. sounds great, right? who's against understanding people, right? it sounds like some saturday
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morning about, hey, let's understand people. [laughter] they interviewed every single person in north korea, and they collated what you and your family were doing up to, like, your second cousin, and based on that you were granted a rating that determined how loyal you were to the regime. it's like -- and it's got, like, 53 steps. you're not told what your credit rating is, but it determines who you marry, where you go to school, and you can't travel within the country. you have to live where you're assigned. and the people with the bad -- [inaudible] which is what the term was called were all -- >> they refuse to refer to it as a caste system. >> that goes against communism. they present as communists, but they're really, really, really not. and, in fact, in 1980 when kim jung-il was presented to the world as the official successor to kim il-sung, the second world iron curtain countries were like this is absolutely insane. this goes against everything we stand for, and kim il-sung's like, sorry about it, what are you going to do?
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so he -- and to this day the north koreans get off on defiance and giving the finger to these other nations. like people ask what should we do, and the answer is pressure china. they revel in telling china we're not going to do what you say. you're chinese, we're korean, your answers won't apply to us, shut up, you know, and bring it. and it's really, when you have people who are digged in to that exfelt, how the hell are you going to get them out? >> so let's talk about kim jung-il. and he's sort of the lens at which you look at the entire country. >> well, i'm just going to say one thing. one thing that worked out perfectly was he was born during world war ii, he died in '94, so it worked out that his life story works out to a history of the korean, of north korea as a nation. and since he's their forest gump, wherever anything happens, there, you know? involved. by telling his life story in "dear reader," he tells the story of north korea.
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>> so his father, kim il-sung, was he sort of this, you know, lenin to -- i'm really going to make some wrong metaphors here, i'm sure, but was he kind of more like the true-believing good guy to kim jung-il's, like, boy king bad guy that took over? >> well, what happened was the soviet union was given north korea to kind of run after world war ii, and they needed to install like a puppet, and they didn't have that many options because, you know, communism did not have a stronghold in the north of korea at the time. so they settle on kim il-sung who was the kind of ragtag revolutionary. in fact, rumor has it they had to teach him how to speak korean again because he was always speaking russian growing up. and they thought he'd be a pal i can't believe kind of figure d malleable kind of figure, but he was not. he very much had ideas of his own, he had these hard core korean national ideas, nationalist ideas. so, and, you know, after the korean war stalin died, and
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khrushchev took over. khrushchev very much liberalized the soviet union, and this did not sit well with kim il-sung at all. in fact, that's why khrushchev is on the official enemies' list. they despise him. they despise the idea of closing down gulags and allowing internal migration and external news chg. and the point they make is look what happened with stalin. you let in some jerk after, and you bring down the revolution. i've got my father's blood, i will see things through and make the revolution conclude through a generation to the end. in fact, one of the things they have, they have ten commandments. there's ten commandments that run north korea. it's not the constitution which is a western art face for -- artifice for appearance purposes, and number ten is korean revolution will be followed through through the generations. it speaks to their fascist fascination with blood, they are the only ones who can really bring koreanists to the world.
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>> there's this weird paranoia every time that succession is brought up where it's like, oh, we're not a dynasty, it's not, you know, these people were voted in, but clearly they weren't. i mean, why even pay lip service to this idea that there was some sort of fair election or -- >> well, it's not a fair election, no doubt, but it's a fair choice from their perspective because the best man got the job. and just ask him. i mean, is there anyone better in north korea at architecture? you saw those guys, they wanted to make the second tallest straight tower. they will tell you that kim il-sung can teleport. i asked the refugee was this a metaphor? no, no, he could teleport. and she believed if he signed his name, like, the signature can lift off the page and fly through the air. so, you know, it very much follows the christian idea that, you know, why was it christ that was following god? it's just like, well, who else
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is it going to be? it's not going to be john the baptist, you know, he's not divine born. >> kim il-sung, the father, is invoked throughout the book long after his death as being this kind of, you know, person that we all owe a great debt to, and kim jung-il is obviously doing everything for his memory and to continue his legacy and his vision. >> and he's still the president. he's the president even in death. >> so what is the kind of purpose of kim il-sung as an idea right now in north korea? >> i think kim il-sung has the same purpose in north korea in a twisted way that the founding fathers do here. so it's this, you know, i happen to make the joke that you all in america make fun of kim kim il-g being so amazing, but you believe the greatest minds of the century were organized in 13 colonies on the atlantic ocean. so the idea is he saved korea, a
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tiny country. they call themselves a shrimp among whales. he defeated the jap devils during world war ii single-handedly, he depeated the u.s. pill -- defeated the u.s. imperialists, and he kept all these enemies at bay for decades. and, you know, the enemies are just waiting at any moment, and but for him, you know, korea would be part of china or part of japan or something like that. and look at south korea, they'll point out, where, you know, the women are being given aids by the aids-ridden soldiers we send over there so we can use the koreans as guinea pigs. >> one question that i had in my mind the entire time i was reading this book is, is kim jung-il a madman, you know? is he so far down deep into this delusion that he is, essentially, the messiah? or is he just in the cold, calculating, you know, villain of history?
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>> well, we know he's not a mad match because madmen don't tend to be able to execute their ideas very well for that long. so if you look at the history, all these other nations fell away, including the mother ship, the soviet union, and north korea's still plugging along, you know? if you are willing to let 10% of your population starve rather than lose your grip on power, i don't know that that's crazy as much as it is pure evil. i mean, he did this consciously and with intentionality. he refused to let the u.n. see how bad things were doing. he refused to let people have food via, you know, other programs, foreign programs because he said if people are getting food from abroad, they won't need the government anymore, and then we'll be out of luck. so he was very, very cofiving. and, in fact -- conniving. and, in fact, he only got the leadership position because he was so. it was not a given that he would take over. he worked the system, kind of "game of thrones" style, and he held on, you know, until the
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end. when everyone was predicting in the west and even in the east that he was not going to last long after kim il-sung. you know, kim il-sung was this charismatic men of the people, kim jung-il only spoke one sentence in public, was a recluse. in every sense the son was the inferior of the father, i guess like aryanism, and he did what he needed to do, and he stayed through the end. >> so what does this say about the method of north korean perpetuating this regime, you know? why did it work, you know, it didn't work in terms of feeding the people and there's no prosperity, there's nothing, you know, there's no interesting inventions coming out of north korea, there's no progress, but it worked in the sense that the regime has maintained power. why? >> well, i -- >> were all other hypercommunist -- where all other hugh communist regimes
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have failed, north korea has hung on this long. >> first of all, the ruthlessness is really going to help. if you are going to, when -- in north korea when something bad happens to you, they will take three generations of your family. you don't have a trial. they show up in the middle of the night, they take your b "ñ sent to the camps. and you don't know who it was in your family that got, who disobeyed the regime and got you sent there. you're not told what your crime is or how long your stay is in these awful places. so that's number one. it's a good way to maintain obedience by having everyone in the nation be hostage. the fact that they've kind of crowd sourced surveillance and had every single person be a spy on everyone else is going to be extremely useful. and the fact that, you know, i have him in the book boast about censorship in the same way as, look, we have the idea, all these other ideas are now known to be false and outdated. you don't have rotten food in your cupboard, right? so this isn't censorship, it's
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progress. so the fact that these people have no composure to outside -- exposure to the outside ideas, one of the famous anecdotes and my mother can attest to this is that it was shows like dynasty and dallas that brought down the soviet union because the women are watching how the poor people in these shows are living, and they don't have toilet paper. what is in this nonsense? i don't want this. they don't have that option. the only movies they're allowed to see are, like, titanic which is clearly the disaster of capitalism and dickens and books that suppress nationalism. so they are very much kept in a state of complete isolation which is increasingly falling apart. because when you can't feed your police force, the border between north korea and china has gotten very, very porous because they're hungry s so the people bo to china, they trade things, they pay off the border guard, and when you don't have
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electricity in your entire town and dogs in china, you know, have these little lights, you're realizing what we're being told isn't true, and it's a very gossipy culture. everyone talks. and people are increasingly realizing this is all nonsense. but it's like dominoes. the lie so big and so pervasive, it's like as soon as one piece falls away, you're like, wait a minute, none of this makes sense. >> so in every other regime that has approached in this the level of pervasiveness of the surveillance and oppression -- >> nothing's come close, in my view, but go ahead. >> well, the ones that have come the closest anyway, you have these kind of concessions to capitalism. where people start developing black markets, and they're trading underground. is there anything like that happening? i mean, you just sort of alluded to it. >> yeah. that's what's been happening now, and this is interesting for gender issues. because the government gave up
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in the late '90s on being able to feet the people. so they're like, you know what? you rely on yourself, get fed. see you later. so increasingly you have these markets, and kim jung-il knew about them, he allowed them. every so often he'd have them shut down kind of like fumigating so people know who's really in charge, but it was a recognized mechanism of getting the people fed. and they've tried these little experiments. like there's the race on economic zone which is a kind of partnership with south korea which is very, very guarded and isolated, localized even with north korea. but their perspective on economics so genuinely crazy, and there's this anecdote towards the end of his life kim jung-il gave everyone in the country it's either a 1,000 or 10,000% raise. i don't remember. it was literally that. everyone in many in the country mack -- and within a month, inflation hit 10,000%. and he genuinely felt this was a subterfuge and people undermining his plan, and he had
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the finance minister shot, because he didn't understand why this was happening. is it's funny in a sense -- so it's funny in a sense, but when you realize these funny ideas happen it means massacres and just vast ors vast death. >> -- vast, death. >> so we talk, basically, this is slowly falling apart is kind to of the takeaway and that it can't last forever. do you have a prediction? >> there's that famous line, i think from steinbeck, where he was asked how did you go broke, and he goes two ways, gradually and then suddenly. i think it already has fallen apart. in the '90s when the famine hit, kim jung-il invented his philosophy which means military first which basically meant the military eats first. and under this it was no longer the party, the workers' party that runs north korea, it's the army. and this is basically martial law. so this was a big, big change,
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and this was them, you know, getting even more, you know, kind of violent and, you know, digging their heels in further. so there is change, but it's just change in some senses it's better, but other senses they're just doubling down on the brutality. >> and how do you think this is going to play out? that eventually the rest of the world is going to say, hey, you've got to stop this, or we're going to invade? or that the people are going to decide that they've had enough? >> i was talking to a friend of mine who works with these issues, and he had a very good point which is it's a great thing that kim jong un killed his uncle, because now all those people at the party elites at the very top realize their days could be numbered. if he's going after his own family, i might not be safe. so that might be a possible opportunity. that said, if it hasn't happened for 70 years, first of all, invading, i think, is almost definitely not happening. for many, many, many reasons, but i think china wouldn't let it. >> why? >> well, because if north
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korea's regime goes down, you've got 24 million refugees pouring into china who don't speak chinese, who have no skills, who are hungry, and it's just going to be a complete nightmare. south korea certainly the border between north and south korea is the most militarized border in the world called the dmz, ironically. clinton said it kept him up at night. there's all these land mines for miles and miles and miles. they have to go to china. so invading would be a complete horror. and what's the worst part is all the people in the concentration camps, and you can see them on google earth, and, you know, really, really awful what's happening right now. they're all told if we get invaded, we're going to kill all of you, and we're burning the camps down. just like the nazis tried to do. do so -- it'll get wheels
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turning in the right direction. like how do you save a people who have been so and oppressed for so long? another metaphor i always use the slaves after the american war where for decades it was horrible for them and not comparing tragedies, but in north korea it's amazing. i mean, at least in the south they were in a semi-free state. this is just a complete nightmare system.
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so we see increasingly these media companies going into north korea and producing documentary content. why does north korea let these people into the country? >> north korea very much plays into western views on them. a lot of times i'll read a book, and they'll mention -- a western book, and they'll mention some kind of crazy north korean article only to find it's been scrubbed meaning they read that western book and like, okay, this is too crazy that all these birds were dying because kim il-sung died and things like that. so they play up their exoticness because you're nervous that this guy has his finger on the trigger, dr. strangelove thing, and when someone's crazy, you don't know what they're going to do next. they very much are aware of how they're perceived, and they feed into it. >> and they have an instagram account. >> they do. >> they're following you. >> they didn't follow but they
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liked the book cover. >> they liked it. >> yes. in fact, when my friend got to north korea, they liked her picture, and she got so scared, she liked all of theirs. but why they are letting in all these media companies is they are desperate for money, they're the first communist nation to default on their loans, so they had no hard currency, and they produced nothing of value. they need money so they can buy gasoline, they have very little electricity, so that's one of the few things we can sell as tourism, and these are all very tightly controlled, of course, and from their perspective the rest of the world wants to know how great they are, and this is their way of sharing concern it's the conceit they have to play into because everyone's into them because they're so awesome, and let's let them see how awesome they really are. >> tell us about your relationship with your guide. >> sure. one of the most -- when i work with a celebrity, when i co-author a book of theirs, my job is to the basically kind of
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crack them and get in their head. i want them to tell their truth and their real story. and there's a lot of techniques i use, and it's a whole process. so when i was in north korea, i really wanted to get inside my guide's head. because i really wanted to know what she thought, how she felt, how she viewed her country, and she reminded me a lot of my how. so it was very touching because, first of all, they're very funny. people can't get their head around that, they're very funny. when i was leaving north korea, i asked my guide, i said if i can send you anything from the west, what do you want me to send you in and immediately she goes, a porsche. [laughter] and they have a famous symbol which is a peg us they have there -- peg a us, it's a symbol of speed. i go i'm not sending you a porsche. she says i've got the original one here, why do i need you to send it to me?
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and she said i want hand lotion, there's none in the whole country, she just wants soft hands, and she goes i want perfume. and the person with me goes what kind of perfume do you want, and she's struggling for the words because if you've never owned perfume or don't know anyone who's ever owned perfume, how do you have the language for that? she goes i just want to smell like a girl. i just want to smell feminine. and this is, i think, will listf the worst you can say about a country is they have no perfume, they've got it pretty good, but this is just how pervasive the control is. if we don't make it, you don't need to have it. you don't get to have anything nice or little treats or anything like that. once a year on the leader's birthday, they'll give the kids candy and notebooks, and it's supposed to be this great thing, but i think it's before the when a kid can have a treat whenever they want, not in celebration of this man who's taken everything
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from you and your family. >> and that lack of perfume is not just a matter of them not having perfume, but that, you know, using perfume would be some sort of attack on this idea of sameness. >> many oh, yes. -- oh, yes. you have this syndrome, you're standing out from the crowd, but you think you're better than everybody. it's very much frowned upon. and in pyongyang, to even step foot you have to have the highest level of political reliability. and many of these refugees are like what's it like because they hear stories about pyongyang, it's this miracle. >> like the capital from hunger games. >> in fact, one of my refugee friends said it was like north korea, how did they know? i'm like, am i supposed to laugh? [laughter] so, but in pyongyang they watch south korea on the tv shows, and they use south korean slang. she taught me the term -- [speaking in native tongue] which means cute, and when i
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told the refugee, he goes, oh, you earned that in seoul -- learned that in seoul, i said, no, pyongyang, she said that's south korean. they're more like new york tan they are these little boon dock towns -- >> they've never left the country. >> they've never left the country. and another kind of poignant moment, my friend had gone earlier, the one that showed me it's legal to go, anyone can go, i would encourage anyone to go because it's just amazing, and his guide at the end was like, oh, i hope you come back and visit us because to them it's the only time they talk to a foreigner. oh, i'd love it if you come visit me in los angeles. he plays dumb. and she kind of turns around and cries, like literally, and she's like i'm afraid that won't be possible. so these people know that they are trapped. so, again, the book's hilarious. [laughter] >> so what's the deal with this kim jong un guy? >> am i right? [laughter]
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>> is he another kim jung-il? is he, is he even more of this, like, playboy who doesn't care about anything other than, you know, eating expensive sushi and -- >> kim jong un was plan c. >> is he geoffrey from game of thrones, is what i'm asking. >> i've been told that i look like geoffrey, and i don't know if that's true, but apparently that's a bad person to aspire to. again, kim jung-il makes this point, and it's true, it's not strictly hereditary monarchy. the eldest son went to japan -- >> can we talk about why he was passed over? >> sure. and today's passover. he went to japan. his passport which is from the dominican republic, his chinese name in the passport translates to fat bear because literally to us he's this kind of roly poly guy. he said he was going to disneyland. he was actually there to collect money for illegal arm shipments --
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>> was this sort of his own, like, deal he was doing on the side or officially sanctioned? >> no. there's a report that just came out today called illicit by human rights for north korea. i encourage everyone to read it, just shows how north korea has their finger in all sorts of illicit activities -- >> kidnapping and drugs and guns. >> well, gun running and counterfeiting, also other report. so kim jong name's in japan, and he got caught. but he went to beijing, you know, years apart, and he goes look what happened in beijing, we should liberalize, and kim jung-il says we're not chinese, it won't work for us. if you want openness, open a window. so this was a big reason. and the eldest son is kind of an environmentalist which in a communist nation you might as well, you know, be straight out a burning man. so he was passed over, right? [laughter] the second son -- >> is he alive? >> he's alive. he lives in macaw.
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he wrote a book. when i went to north korea, i had a list of books i wanted, and that was on that list. my guide was asking for this book, he must have been, his heart must have skipped a beat. the second son is, has a hormonal imbalance, is a sissy and too much like a little girl, so that was a no go. so kim jong un was the only one left, and the idea was kim jung-il's sister was going to be kind of the regent, guiding him through the power succession. and she is really, she's like geoffrey. she's really, really evil. her daughter had a boyfriend or fiance who was of a bad class, and she drove her to suicide. so this is the kind of ruthlessness. it's not just to the people -- >> like the medieval power brokering and -- >> i don't even know if medieval was this bad. like we think of medieval as being this bad, but this is a whole new kind of -- they're right. they are new and unique because the world's never seen anything like this. so kim jong un very much promised to stay the course just
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like his father, and he even looks, you know, he's very much cultivating the fact that he looks like his grandfather, kim il-sung, and he's very much staying the course. like this dennis rodman kind of fetishization is a little unusual, but everything else, you know, he is really not introducing any change. >> what's your take on this whole dennis rodman thing? >> i think it's amazing that we have concentration camps and people are interested in this kind of, you know, guy slipping on a banana shiedshow on the -- sideshow on the side. talk about orwellian -- >> i remember sending you the link to the video that vice add produced about dennis rodman's visit, and you were basically like i can't watch this. >> yeah. because when you go there and you see the people and you hear -- you know, you go to the schools, right? and the kids sing a song for you, and you hear they have chest colds because there's no heat in the school, and they don't have heat at home, and they don't have warm clothes. it still ringings in my head. and people just want to talk about some idiot going on a
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trip. it's just like i almost can't wrap my head around the fact that there are concentration camps where children are being beaten to death, and it's like, hey, isn't this wacky? this guy who married himself, remember that? is friends with in this person. it's like, no, this is not funny to me at all. and i'll tell holocaust jokes all day long because the holocaust is over. but this is happening right now, and people don't get how pervasive and bad it is. >> how are we doing on time? >> [inaudible] >> 15 minutes. all right. so we've used up our poignant moment. i'll have to think of something more poignant. >> well, there's a lot of poignancy in the book. actually, one of my friends had this kind of a poignant moment book which is kim jung-il married the this woman, the love of his life, and he couldn't make it public because she was married before, she had a kid, so his father, kim il-sung is like when are you going to get
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married, when are you going to give me a grand son? not knowing the grandson was being raised in secrecy. and his father found a wife for him and forced him to get married not realizing kim jung-il was married before. and that moment where kim jung-il had to sit down his first wife and be like i had to marry somebody else, and she was like the biggest movie star in korea. and the woman, you know, was driven to suicidal depression and exiled to moscow to live out her life in isolation. so talk about poignancy. like the pernicious wickedness of that place affects everyone, each the people at the very top -- even the people at the very top. >> toward the end of the book it gets very sad, and weirdly enough i found myself feeling bad for kim jung-il. and the reason why is because he devotes his entire life to the revolution -- >> supposedly. >> supposedly. >> according to him.
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>> yeah. and, i mean, secretly he's indulging in every luxury -- >> no. he's actually, they're pretty chaste. have strippers, but you weren't allowed to touch them. >> okay. did you read the article about the sushi chef? >> yes, of of course. which is not very reliable. >> really? >> yeah. but that's a whole other story. >> well, anyway, kim jung-il devotes his life to the revolution, and he can't acknowledge his son, he can't acknowledge his lover -- >> why have, yeah. >> he seems like a very lonely guy. >> well, i mean -- >> i mean, there's that joke from the team america movie which sort of kick started this whole idea of kim jung-il as a silly internet meem. he sings that song i'm so lonely, and in some ways it seems like that may have been the case. >> that gq article where kim jung-il's personal chef spills the beans, kim jung-il asks the chef if you like me, and he says, well, if you don't, he
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makes a motion stabbing him in the stomach. but again, i have to have empathy for him to write in his voice. but to be in fear of your dad, to see people cheering and knowing it's all a staged production and knowing these people despise you, i'm sure he was not a very happy person. i don't think human beings are happy when every wish of theirs is fulfilled. i mean, it is not a psychologically healthy place to be. but i'm sure he's in hell, you know? i mean, let's be realistic. this guy us more than happy to -- was more than happy to let people starve just to maintain his grip on power which is as evil as it gets. it's a very funny book. >> there's a moment when the first son, you know, eventually realizes that everything is a sham -- >> yeah. >> -- that f and that everything is a charade and that kim jung-il is just full of lies, and he finally caron confronts his father and says you're lying to me --
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>> this is all fake. >> and how old is the son at the time? >> 5 or 6. >> pretty young. >> yeah. >> what do you think is going through kim jung-il's head? >> that's a great story, which is true. they let the son watch south korean tv, and when he was a kid he wanted to meet this host of some children's tv show. and kim jung-il's like, oh, crap, what are we going to do? how are we going to produce this south korean celebrity? so they find a farmer who looks like him, they give him the costume, and they have him practice to be an imposter. and at the son's birthday party, they present him as like, hey, look, that south korean celebrity you like, and the kid immediately -- this is all true -- realizes that's not the guy. and he tells him, this is all fake. so, you know, when you're -- kim jung-il knows his father couldn't walk across the water, he knows he was born in russia and not north korea, he knows his father started the korean war, he knows all these things. so, i mean, i don't think it's very, you know, these sociopaths
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by definition are not happy people. they're -- >> you think that he hasn't drunk the kool-aid to the extent that he's as much of a believer as he thinks everyone else supposed to be? >> he's not drunk the kool-aid. when you see him talking to putin and madeleine albright, when you see him talking to the president of china, he's very conniving, very crafty. this is a great story. in 2001, you know, for decades the north koreans have been kidnapping japanese citizens to help them train the north koreans to be spies, and this is regarded as nonsense and other crazy north korean stories, but it was all i true. and when the prime minister of japan came to north korea, kim jung-il apologized. he goes, yeah, we have been kidnapping your people for decades. oops, promise it won't happen again. there was people under me who were kind of working too hard, and he thought this apology was going to get them aid because it's like i came clean, you messed us up during the colonial period, give us rights, and the japanese are like, are you crazy? rather than give them rice, they
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threw it in the ocean because they were so apoplectic that this is being -- and that you had the nerve to apologize and think this apology was going to be taken at face value. so, you know, it's craziness but not in the sense you might think. he knows he's not magic. in fact, when he met this famous actress that he kid mapped, the first -- kidnapped, the first thing he said to her is don't i look like a midget turd? he had this physique. madeleine albright, he says here i am, the last of the communist devils. >> can you tell the full madeleine albright -- >> oh, the madeleine albright story. my favorite stories that i left unchanged were the ones that were true. you read them -- >> real quick. in telling this story, how did you position it? is it in kim jung-il's words, or is it a mixture of kim jung-il's words and what you know to be true from outside news stories? >> he did not put the story down, it's in their propaganda.
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basically, as the story goes madeleine albright goes to north korea which really happened, and she expresses her -- >> she brings the basketball signed by michael jordan. >> yes. and madeleine albright, according to -- this is the first i heard of it, it was a north korean story, she expresses her mood via her broaches. so kim jung-il -- >> is there any reference to this outside north korean propaganda? >> i'll get to that. so she shows up, she has this broach, and at one point she's no enamored with him, she has a broach of two hearts interlocking which is a pretty international symbol of love and friendship, right? and is i'm like, oh, my god. i go back to verify this story, it's all true. she wrote a book called read my pins about how she expresses her emotions through her broaches, and there is a photo of her and him walking down the hall, and she has a broach with two hearts on it. and that was the moment that really kind of my head exploded during the book. because it was just like -- but, like so much of this stuff is
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false, and this is, everything was true. yeah. >> and it starts off with a different kind of broach, right? >> right. so she showed up, because everyone in north korea has to have a broach on, a pin oven of all times, everyone in the whole country. so she shows up with this giant american flag, like the size of a playing card, to be like, screw you. a, we don't have to wear broaches, and my broach is better than you, and it's true! >> he interprets this as like a big power move. >> but it was. she said this. she said i wanted to wear this kind of flag-waving rah, rah, rah i'm in my red, white and blue. >> where do you get a pin like that? >> you're madeleine albright, i don't know. area 51? [laughter] it's true. so, like, that story of all the stories in the book i didn't have to change at all. i had to put it in the first person, but the way they tell it actually happens -- actually, no, there's one part the this didn't happen but which is funny. madeleine albright's at this banquet, and she goes how do you count to 16 just using your
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fingers, and everyone's like, i don't know. and kim jung-il goes like this where your thumbs make the x so it's four times four makes 16, and madeleine albright starts crying -- >> a weird sort of callback experience to constantly disproving his teachers. >> oh, yeah. sure, that was intentional. oh, yeah. [laughter] it was a clever callback. yeah. all in this built-in irony that i didn't know was there. >> there's more to this. madeleine albright wears a third broach -- >> right. of a cowboy which the north koreans claim is the international symbol of peace. and i'm like -- >> because cowboys promote peace -- >> no, that's my -- i'm like i have to make some justifications. they don't justify anything. they're like, as she left she had a cowboy pin which is a symbol of peace. i'm like, okay, it's not. and the dear readers of this book will know it's not. so i have to have some justification, and it was a perfect segway into the george bush chapter.
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and, you know, obviously, george bush takes a big knock in this book, and with good reason. >> why? >> well, i think this kind of saber rattling is not regarded very well abroad and with good reason. so i -- and the fact that george bush unilaterally left many of these treaties, i have the list in the book. you know, kim jung-il criticized him for that. the u.s., soviet union and now russia have this treaty since the '70s, george bush says it doesn't apply to us anymore. that kind of high-handedness, in my view, is not good international registrations. >> what was the thinking behind that, you know, this grandstanding on the u.s.' point? >> you're asking me why george bush did these things? >> i mean, what do you think? >> i think he was like i'm on the side of the angels, and i know what's right, and i'm not going to have a piece of paper such as the treaty or this constitution bind my hands. there's some irony, huh? >> yeah.
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>> but it's a very funny book. ..
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>> it is 100% shrill. >> yet. we are going to open it up now for some questions. [inaudible question] >> when i was in the museum by the dmz, there was a tour guide their we spoke russian. and russians can recognize each other and in a